METROFOCUS: January 11, 2021

Governor Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State today. And with the UK strain of the coronavirus confirmed to be in NY and fears that more cases could soon follow, the vaccine and rollout topped the agenda along with the economic crises facing our communities. Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max, Author and Rutgers University Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Saladin Ambar, and Founder and Chairman of The Conservative Color Coalition Joseph Pinion join us to discuss the Governor’s proposals and what could happen this week in Washington, where President Trump is facing impeachment for the second time.

 

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO OUR WEEKLY 'METROFOCUS' FRONT PAGE FORECAST.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

AFTER THE FIRST WEEK OF 2021, WE ALREADY FIND OURSELVES IN A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS AND RACING TO DISTRIBUTE THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE AT THE SAME TIME.

FOLLOWING LAST WEEK'S DEADLY SIEGE ON THE CAPITOL, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS HAVE FORMALLY INVADE THEIR RESOLUTION TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT TRUMP AND HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE FOR INCITING THE INSURRECTION.

IT WAS AGAINST THIS EXTRAORDINARY BACKDROP THAT GOVERNOR CUOMO ALSO ADDRESSED US EARLIER TODAY, AND WITH THE U.K.

STRAIN OF THE VIRUS CONFIRMED TO BE IN NEW YORK STATE AND FEARS THAT MORE CASES WILL SOON FOLLOW, THE VACCINE AND THE ROLLOUT HAS TOPPED HIS AGENDA ALONG WITH THE ECONOMIC CRISIS FACING OUR COMMUNITIES.

SO TO HELP US MAKE SENSE OF THE GOVERNOR'S BIG SPEECH AS WELL AS WHAT'S TO COME POSSIBLY FROM WASHINGTON THIS WEEK WE'D LIKE TO WELCOME BACK THREE FRIENDS TO THE PROGRAM FOR OUR WEEKLY LOOK AHEAD AT THE HEADLINES AND THEIR IMPACT ON THE TRI-STATE.

FIRST UP WE HAVE PROFESSOR SALADIN AMBAR, AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT RUTGERS UNIVERSITY AND A SENIOR SCHOLAR AT THE EAGLE TON INSTITUTE OF POLITICS.

HE IS ALSO THE AUTHOR OF SEVERAL BOOKS INCLUDING AMERICAN SISSIO MARIO CUOMO AND THE DEFENSE OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

GOOD TO BE HERE AS ALWAYS.

OF COURSE.

AND WE ARE JOINED BY JOSEPH PINION.

HE IS A REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CHAIR OF THE CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION AND HOST OF NEWSMAX'S SATURDAY AGENDA.

JOSEPH, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANKS.

AND WE ARE JOINED AGAIN BY OUR FRIEND OF THE SHOW BEN MAX, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF 'GOTHAM GAZETTE' AND CO-HOST OF THE MAX AND MURPHY PODCAST ON NEW YORK POLITICS.

WELCOME, BEN.

THANK YOU, JENNA.

GOOD TO BE BACK.

SO, BEN, I AM GOING TO PUT YOU, I GUESS, FIRST ON THE HOT SEAT SEEING HOW YOU ARE OUR LOCAL STATE POLITICS EXPERT.

AND JUST ASK YOU TO GIVE US, I GUESS, AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT IS THAT THE GOVERNOR IS ADDRESSING IN HIS STATE OF THE STATE BECAUSE, AGAIN, SO MANY ISSUES, AS I TOUCHED ON, NOT JUST, OF COURSE, THE CORONAVIRUS MUCH.

THE NEW VIRUS, THE VACCINE, AND, OF COURSE, WHAT HAPPENED IN WASHINGTON.

SURE.

WELL, YOU KNOW, THIS IS A DIFFERENT SPEECH THAN USUAL FOR THE GOVERNOR.

VERY MINIMAL LIVE AUDIENCE OF COURSE IN THE COVID ERA.

STILL NOT SAFE TO BRING A LOT OF PEOPLE INTO THE HALL LIKE HE USUALLY DOES FOR AGENDA-SETTING SPEECHES, STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESSES, BUT IT BROADCASTS AROUND THE STATE AND PLENTY OF PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO TUNE IN.

ONE OF THE THINGS THE GOVERNOR STRESSED WAS THAT THE STATE OF NEW YORK IS SUFFERING, HE SAID, AND THAT, OF COURSE, RELATES TO COVID, BUT ALSO TO THE STATE'S FUTURE FISCAL AND ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

ONE OF THE BIG THEMES THAT THE GOVERNOR STRESSED AGAIN IS THAT NEW YORK STATE IS FACING A MASSIVE BUDGET CHALLENGE AND THAT WAS BROUGHT ON BY COVID AT THE ECONOMIC SHUTDOWN AND THE LOSS IN TAX REVENUE, AND HE HIT HOME THE THEME HE HAS BEEN STRESSING MANY MONTHS, WHICH IS HE EXPECTS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DO MORE TO FILL NEW YORK STATE'S BUDGET GAP.

THE GOVERNOR LAID OUT A SEARCH-POINT STATE OF STATE AGENDA AND FILLED IN A LOT OF DETAILS.

THOSE POINTS, INCLUDING DEFEATING COVID AND VACCINATING NEW YORKERS, FIXING THE STATE'S FISCAL CRISIS, GETTING ITS ECONOMY GOING AGAIN, WHICH INCLUDED ANOTHER PLANK OF GREEN ENERGY AND GREEN JOBS, AND THEN ALSO DEALING WITH WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM CHANGES THAT COVID HAS MADE US REALIZE, INCLUDING SOME OF THE REAL SOCIAL, RACIAL, ETHNIC INEQUITIES THAT THE STATE HAS BEEN FACING.

THOSE ARE SOME OF THE BROAD STROKES.

HE TALKED ABOUT WAYS TO INCREASE REVENUE THROUGH MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION AND LEGALIZING SPORTS BETTING AND OTHER THINGS ON THE AGENDA.

HIS FOCUS IN MANY WAYS WAS DEFEATING COVID AND GETTING MORE FEDERAL HELP FOR THE STATE.

WELL, AND AGAIN THERE IS SO MUCH TO UNPACK JUST WITH THE GOVERNOR'S STATE OF THE STATE.

WE WILL PUT A PIN IN THAT FOR A MOMENT.

I WANT TO PIVOT TO THE OTHER VERY HUGE STORY HAPPENING IN OUR NATION, AND THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN WASHINGTON RIGHT NOW.

PROFESSOR AMBAR, I WANT YOUR TAKE ON THE INTRODUCTION OF ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT.

A SECOND POTENTIAL IMPEACHMENT FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP AND IS THIS THE RIGHT STEP?

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK BACK AND FORTH ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT CONGRESS SHOULD HOLD OFF, GO FORWARD RIGHT AWAY, WILL THIS CAUSE FURTHER DIVISIONS IN THE COUNTRY.

WHAT IS YOUR READ ON WHAT HAS HAPPENED AT LEAST ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES?

WELL, I THINK IT'S IMPERATIVE FOR THE CONGRESS TO ACT IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN TO MAKE CERTAIN IT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND, FRANKLY, TO THE WORLD THAT THE CONGRESS WILL ALWAYS ACT IN THE EVENT THAT A CALAMITOUS EVENT PRECIPITATED BY A SITTING PRESIDENT IS NEVER CONSIDERED OR LAUNCHED AGAIN.

WE HAVE HAD AN ATTACK ON OUR NATION'S CAPITOL AND TCAPITAL.

IT WAS NOT ACCIDENTAL.

IT DIDN'T COME FROM ACROSS THE OCEAN, IT CAME FROM THE PRESIDENT TRUMP OF THE UNITED STATES ALONG WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS.

WHILE THE TIMING ISN'T IDEAL WITH SO FEW DAYS LEFT REMAINING IN TRUMP'S TIME IN OFFICE, I DO THINK, YOU KNOW, THERE IS NO WAY A RESPONSIBLE MEMBER OF CONGRESS CAN SIT IDLY BY AND NOT USE WHATEVER POWER THEY HAVE, HOWEVER LIMITED BY THE TIMEFRAME, TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT THIS IS BEHAVIOR THAT CANNOT BE COUNTENANCED.

SO I JUST WOULDN'T SECOND-GUESS ANY EFFORT WHETHER IT'S THE 25th AMENDMENT OR THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPEACHMENT OR REMOVAL FROM OFFICE TO MAKE A STAND AGAINST WHAT THIS PRESIDENT HAS COME TO REPRESENT.

WELL, JOSEPH, I WANT TO POSE THAT SAME QUESTION TO YOU.

AGAIN, KEEPING IF MIND THAT WE HAVE HEARD FROM SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THE GOP THAT WHILE THEY FIND WHAT TOOK PLACE LAST WEDNESDAY TO BE ABSOLUTELY REPUGNANT, SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT GOING FORWARD WITH ANOTHER IMPEACHMENT COULD FURTHER THE DIVIDES THAT ALREADY EXIST IN THE COUNTRY.

DO YOU THINK THAT'S A FAIR CRITICISM OF WHAT SEEMS TO BE HAPPENING, OR IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED?

I MEAN, I THINK IT'S WITHOUT QUESTION POURING GASOLINE ON A FIVE-ALARM FIRE.

THERE IS NO ARGUMENT THAT YOU CAN MAKE THAT IMPEACHING PRESIDENT TRUMP AT THIS PARTICULAR JUNCTION IS HEALTHY FOR AMERICA.

IT IS NOT.

IF YOU ARE SIMPLY DONE WITH THE CONCEPT OF AMERICA, IF YOU WANT UNITY ON YOUR OWN TERMS AND BY ALL MEANS, PROCEED APACE.

BUT IF YOU TRULY WANT TO TRY TO UNITE AMERICA, YOU CAN'T JUST SAY UNITE AMERICA BUT DOUBLE DOWN ON DIVISION.

THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS.

UNITY REQUIRES A CONCERTED EFFORT FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE DEEP DISAGREEMENTS TO TRY TO FIND COMMON GROUND.

WE HAVE HAD AN ELECTION.

JOE BIDEN WILL BE THE PRESIDENT OF THESE UNITED STATES.

IF WE ARE GOING TO DEDICATE THE FIRST 30 OR 20 OR 40 DAYS OF HIS PRESIDENCY TO TALKING ABOUT WHETHER YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO IMPEACH A PRIVATE CITIZEN, THEN BY ALL MEANS LET US DO THAT.

BUT IF WE ARE TRULY FOCUSED ON MAKING SURE THAT 350 PLUS MILLION SOULS CAN GET A VACCINE THEY DESPERATELY NEED, IF WE ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT WE CAN PUT AMERICANS BACK TO WORK, THEN WE SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON THOSE OBJECTIVES AND NOT TRYING TO PENALIZE A MAN WHO, IF WE ARE BEING TRULY HONEST, CANNOT BE HURT BY THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS ANYMORE.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CAPITOL WAS DISGRACEFUL.

IT WAS A MULTIGENERATIONAL FAILURE.

I THINK, AGAIN, WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT TRANSPIRED, IT WAS IN MANY WAYS THE INEVITABLE OUTCOME OF 64 DAYS OF BEATING A DRUM TO TELL PEOPLE THAT THEY WERE ROBBED OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO CAST ONE VOTE, ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN.

BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN MOVING FORWARD, TO MAKE THSURE WE PUT THAT DARK DA THE DAYS THAT WERE DARKER THAT PRECEDED IT BEHIND US, I THINK THAT IT'S INCUMBENT OF US TO REALIZE THAT WE HAVE TO STOP KICKING OUR NEIGHBORS AND HAVE TO START EMBRACING THE TRUTHS THAT IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN AMERICA, WE HAVE TO TRY TO REFOCUS ON THE COMMON PURPOSE THAT HAS MADE AMERICA WHAT IT IS.

BEFORE I CIRCLE BACK TO THE ISSUE OF NEW YORK STATE AND HOW WE ARE GOING TO FARE, PROFESSOR AMBAR, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO SAY?

WELL.

I WOULD JUST RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE WITH JOSEPH.

I THINK IF YOU ARE SUPPORTIVE OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR AND I PUNISH THE CRIMINAL, YOU MAY FIND THAT DIVISIVE, BUT IT'S JUSTICE.

HOLD ON.

I DIDN'T -- JUST QUICKLY --

NO, NO --

REAL QUICKLY, BECAUSE I --

I LET YOU SPEAK.

GENTLEMEN, WE ARE ON ZOOM, SO WE GOT TO BE ONE AT A TIME.

I LET YOU SPEAK.

I BELIEVE WE HAVE A MODERATOR.

SO I AM ALLOWED TO MOVE FORWARD.

SO LET ME JUST SAY, IF SOMEONE ENGAGES IN VIOLENT CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR AND, OR AT LEAST IT APPEARS TO BE CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR, AND THAT INDIVIDUAL AND INDIVIDUALS ARE PUNISHED, I DON'T SEE THAT AS DIVISIVE, I SEE THAT AS JUSTICE.

IF YOU SUPPORT THAT BEHAVE YOU'RE AND YOU DON'T LIKE THE PENALTY, I CAN'T HELP YOU.

THE PROBLEM ISN'T THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.

IT'S THAT WE HAD FOUR YEARS WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP WHO HAS BEEN ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING AS HE SUGGESTED, I CAN SHOOT SOMEONE ON FINALIST AVENUE AND NOT LOSE A SUPPORTER.

IF THAT SUPPORTER IS UPSET THAT THE PRESIDENT IS GOING TO BE RECEIVING JUSTICE FROM CONGRESS, WELL, THEN, YOU KNOW, THAT'S REALLY UNFORTUNATE, BUT WE CAN'T WORRY ABOUT FEELINGS.

WE HAVE TO ADMINISTER JUSTICE.

THIS HAS TO BE A COUNTRY WHERE THE RULE OF LAW APPLIES.

LOOK, I JUST -- QUICKLY, BECAUSE I THINK -- NUMBER ONE, I DON'T THINK HOW IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO TAKE AWAY THAT I WAS TRYING TO CONDONE LAWLESSNESS.

WHAT HAPPENED WAS DISGRACEFUL.

I HAVE SAID THAT.

MANY PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT.

IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THE RULE OF LAW, PART OF THE REASON WHY THERE HAS BEEN DIFFICULTY HOLDING PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE ACROSS THE AISLE FIND DISMAYING IS BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT HE IS PROTECTED BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS HE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO IMPEACHED AND REMOVED FROM OFFICE IN THE TIME THAT REMAINS.

HE HAS LESS THAN A WEEK AND A HALF REMAINING IN OFFICE.

SO IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY, WE ARE A NATION OF LAWS.

WE HAVE A CRIMINAL COURT.

WE HAVE CIVIL COURTS.

ALL OF WHICH WILL BE ABLE TO BRING CHARGES IF THEY ARE DEEMED NECESSARY AGAINST A PRIVATE CITIZEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP.

MY POINT AND SOLELY MY POINT WAS THAT IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT UNITING THE COUNTRY AND MOVING FORWARD, WHETHER YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THE 25th AMENDMENT OR TALKING ABOUT IMPEACHMENT, THEY ARE ENGAGEMENTS IN THE THEATER OF POLITICS AND NOT THE REALITY OF ACTUAL PUNISHMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY BECAUSE WE BOTH KNOW THAT THOSE LEVERS WILL NOT RESULT IN ACTUAL REMOVAL OF PRESIDENT TRUMP FROM OFFICE.

THAT IS ALL I WAS SAYING.

AND I THINK AGAIN IF WE ARE GOING TO ENGAGE IN THIS CONVERSATION, HAVE TRUTHFUL CONVERSATION THAT HAS THE INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY REQUIRED FOR US TO MOVE FORWARD, IT'S NOT ABOUT KICKING OUR NEIGHBORS OR EVEN ANTAGONIZING PEOPLE THAT DISAGREE WITH US.

ALL I AM SAYING, AND WHAT I THINK MANY AMERICANS ARE SAYING, WE HAVE TO REALIZE THAT THE PERSON WHO WILL BE PUNISHING THROUGH THIS PROCESS IS NOT DONALD TRUMP, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT HIM AND THE DIVISIONS WILL BE INFLAMED AS A RESULT.

WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

I WANT TO MOVE ON.

BEN, FIRST OF ALL, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO WEIGH IN ON THE ACTIONS, I GUESS, OF CONGRESS TODAY?

I WOULD SAY I THINK ONE THING THAT'S INTERESTING ABOUT THE EXCHANGE ON THE PANEL I THINK SOME OF WHAT JOSEPH WAS GETTING AT IS PROBABLY WHAT PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN THINKS.

BUT HE MIGHT BE BEING PRESSURED INTO PURSUING, YOU KNOW, MORE JUSTICE FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP THAN HE MIGHT PREFER BECAUSE HE IS VERY FOCUSED ON HIS CONCEPT OF UNITY AND HIS CONCEPT OF MOVING THE COUNTRY FORWARD AND, OF COURSE, STARTING HIS AGENDA OFF.

THAT'S SOMEHOW INTERESTING.

WHAT MAY BE MISSING FROM THE DISCUSSION IS THERE IS A QUESTION AROUND WHETHER BIDEN AND THE CONGRESS SHOULD BE TRYING TO UNIFY AMERICA AROUND THE CONCEPT THAT THE PRESIDENT IS NEVER ABOVE THE LAW AND NEVER ABOVE ACCOUNTABILITY.

AND EVEN IF HE IS AN OUT GOING PRESIDENT, THERE SHOULD BE REPERCUSSIONS FOR REPEATEDLY UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY AND INCITING AN ATTACK ON THE CAPITOL AND THAT'S A DISCUSSION THAT'S ONGOING AND CERTAINLY WORTH HAVING AS WE GO FORWARD.

MOVING BACK TO THE ISSUES THAT NEW YORK STATE IS FACING, YOU DID BRING UP A VERY FGOOD POINT, THAT IS OF COURSE WHAT WILL PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN MAY BE CONSIDERING.

THERE HAS BEEN TALK THAT TOO MUCH DISCUSSION ABOUT ANOTHER IMPEACHMENT MIGHT DISTRACT FROM HIS FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE.

NOW, WE KNOW, AS YOU SAID, THAT GOVERNOR CUOMO HAS SAID THAT THERE IS A SERIOUS BUDGET CRISIS IN NEW YORK STATE.

FIRST OF ALL, I AM WONDERING IF YOU COULD GIVE US SORT OF A BETTER UNDERSTANDING BECAUSE BUDGET CRISIS CAN BE NEBULOUS IF YOU ARE NOT UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE NUTS AND BOLTS ARE.

BASICALLY, THE STATE HAS LOST A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF TAX REVENUE BECAUSE OF LIMITED ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.

SO IT'S ACTUALLY NOT AS BAD AS ON ONCE PROJECTED BECAUSE PLENTY OF PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY HIGHER EARNERS, HAVE CONTINUED TO MAKE THE MONEY THAT THEY WERE EXPECTED TO MAKE AND THEY ARE PAYING INCOME TAXES AND, YOU KNOW, THERE HAS BEEN SOME CONTINUING OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.

AND SO THE HOLE IS NOT QUITE AS BAD AS SOME THOUGHT.

ONE THING THAT IS WORTH NOTING.

THE GOVERNOR HASN'T COME TO TERMS WITH, THIS RECENT AID PACKAGE FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT WAS MOVED FORWARD UNDER THE CURRENT CONGRESS IS ACTUALLY HELPFUL TO NEW YORK IN TERMS OF A LOT OF THE MONEY IS KIND OF A PASS-THROUGH THROUGH THE STATE GOVERNMENT AND GOING TO A VARIETY OF LOCAL SERVICES, AND THE GOVERNOR HASN'T QUITE NOTED IN HIS BUDGET ASSESSMENT THAT THAT'S VERY HELPFUL TO THE STATE'S BOTTOM LINE.

ALL THAT BEING SAID, THE STATE IS STILL BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN THE HOLE AND LOOKING TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR DIRECT RELIEF INTO THE STATE BUDGET TO BASICALLY MAKE UP FOR LOST TAX REVENUE SO THAT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO CUT EITHER STATE SERVICES OR LOCAL AID THAT HAS BEEN ADMINISTERED BY LOCALITIES.

AND OF COURSE, GOVERNOR CUOMO IS CERTAINLY, HE HAS AN EXCE EXCELLENT POKER FACE.

I AM SURE HE HASN'T GIVEN UP TOO MUCH.

IS THERE ANY INDICATION THAT SOME, YOU KNOW, PERHAPS SOME PAINFUL DRACONIAN CUTS MIGHT BE COMING TO SERVICES, ESPECIALLY FOR NEW YORK, WHICH IS SUCH A HIGH SERVICE STATE?

THERE IS DEFINITELY THE POSSIBILITY.

THE GOVERNOR HAS WITHHELD A LOT OF PAYMENTS.

HE HAS WITHHELD SOME STATE SERVICES AND STATE PROGRAMS.

HE HAS WITHHELD MONEY TO LOCALITIES BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN WORRIED ABOUT IN POTENTIAL CASH KRURCH.

BUT THE STATE CASH POSITION IS ACTUALLY OKAY.

AS I SAID, A LOT OF THE MONEY THAT JUST CAME THROUGH IN THE RECENT PACKAGE, WHICH OF COURSE WAS MONTHS LATE AND CAUSED ALL SORTS OF HAVOC THAT IT DIDN'T NEED TO, ACTUALLY IS HELPING THE STATE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH A LOT OF THAT LOCAL AID.

THERE IS STILL THE QUESTION OF BALANCING THE NEXT BUDGET, BUT THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY HAVE TO HAPPEN UNTIL APRIL 1st WHEN THE NEW FISCAL YEAR BEGINS.

SO THE GOVERNOR IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO SEE WHAT THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS ABLE TO DO IN THE EARLY GOING WITH A LIKELY DEMOCRATIC HOUSE AND SENATE THAT HE IS WORKING WITH.

WELL, GENTLEMEN, I WOULD LIKE TO NOW PIVOT THE CONVERSATION TO THE OTHER AMAZINGLY SO, SO MANY MAJOR STORIES, THE OTHER MAJOR STORY, THE REASON WE ARE ALL SITTING HERE ON ZOOM.

THE CORONAVIRUS, WHICH IS STILL SPREADING WILDLY THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.

WE UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A NEW VARIANT THAT AT LEAST WAS INITIALLY BROUGHT TO THE WORLD'S ATTENTION FROM THE U.K. THAT HAS BEEN FOUND IN NEW YORK STATE, AND THAT IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH MORE CONTAGIOUS.

NOT NECESSARILY DEADLY, BUT IF MORE PEOPLE GET SICK, THERE IS A CONCERN MORE PEOPLE WILL BE GOING TO THE HOSPITALS AND, THEREFORE, MORE PEOPLE, THE CHANCES OF EVEN MORE PEOPLE PASSING AWAY.

I WANT TO ASK YOU, PROFESSOR AMBAR, ABOUT THE WAY THAT THE ROLLOUT OF THIS VACCINE HAS HAPPENED.

WE WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE 20 MILLION PEOPLE VACCINATED IN DECEMBER.

WE HAD, I BELIEVE IT WAS SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF 4 MILLION.

I THINK WE ARE STILL UNDER 7 MILLION NOW IN JANUARY.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED WITH GETTING SHOTS IN ARMS?

WELL, AGAIN, IT COMES BACK TO THE FACT THAT WE NEVER TRULY HAD A COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL PROGRAM TO ADDRESS THE CORONAVIRUS.

BUT THAT'S WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE NOW.

WE ARE DEALING WITH A LOT OF UNCERTAINTY, AND WE ARE SEEING OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS, BUT ALSO OUR SCIENTISTS, CONFRONT SOMETHING THAT WE HAVEN'T SEEN THEM HAVE TO CONFRONT BEFORE.

NOT ONLY NOVEL CORONAVIRUS, BUT THIS VARIANT STRAIN HAS COMPELLED THEM TO THINK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT, AND SOME SCIENTISTS BELIEVE, YOU KNOW, PRESERVING THE DOSAGES FOR THOSE WHO ABSOLUTELY ARE ON THE FRONT LINES, THAT NEED IT FIRST, WHETHER OR NOT THAT'S HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE AS OPPOSED TO WHETHER OR NOT IT SHOULD JUST SIMPLY BE OPENED UP TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC AS A KIND OF BLANKET PROTECTION.

BUT THAT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE QUESTION OF AVAILABILITY.

WE HAVE LEARNED THAT THE PRESIDENT LATER, OR EARLIER, LAST YEAR, LATER LAST YEAR WAS RELUCTANT TO MAKE A LARGE PURCHASE OF -- OR ALLOTMENT OF THE VACCINATIONS AVAILABLE TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC.

WE LEARNED THAT.

THERE WAS SOME 100 MILLION OR SO THAT WERE DELAYED.

AND SO WE'RE BEHIND THE CURVE ON THIS.

THE LEVEL OF UNCERTAINTY IS A REAL PROBLEM.

I WISH I COULD SAY DEFINITIVELY, YOU KNOW, WHEN I WATCH THE NEWS AND HEAR LIKE YOU ALL, NOT BEING TRAINED IN THESE ISSUES AS A BIOLOGIST WHETHER OR NOT IT WAS BEST TO PRIORITIZE HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND OTHERS, IT SEEMED TO BE THE LOGICAL THING TO DO, TO PRESERVE DOSAGES FOR THOSE WHO ARE DEALING ON THE FRONT LINES WITH THE PROBLEM OF PEOPLE BEING INFECTED OR, AS IT SEEMS TO BE THE CASE NOW, AS THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SEEMS TO BE, WOULD BE PRO -- THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SEEMS TO BE ADOPTING A STANCE WHERE JUST RELEASE THEM.

GET THEM OUT THERE.

GET THE DOSAGES OUT THERE IN PEOPLE'S ARMS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

SO IT'S A WICKED PROBLEM, BUT IT'S A HUMAN PROBLEM MADE MORE VICIOUS BY POLITICAL INCOMPETENCE AND MALPRACTICE, FRANKLY, BY THE PRESIDENT EARLIER IN THE VIRUS.

WHEN WE FIRST LEARNED ABOUT IT.

OKAY.

AND, JOSEPH, THAT WAS GOING TO BE MY QUESTION TO YOU.

WE WOULD HOPE THAT HEALTH CARE ISN'T SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE POLITICIZED, AT LEAST AROUND THIS VIRUS.

IT DEFINITELY SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN SO.

AND SO FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AT LEAST WHAT -- DO YOU SEE THAT NECESSARILY WAS A PROBLEM WITH THE ROLLOUT?

WERE THERE THINGS THAT WEREN'T ANTICIPATED OR UNDERSTOOD?

WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO HAPPEN?

FIRST, I WANT TO OBVIOUSLY APOLOGIZE TO PROFESSOR AMBAR.

I DIDN'T MEAN TO INTERRUPT HIM EARLIER.

I THINK WE HAVE SOME FRUITFUL CONVERSATIONS.

I THINK, TO THAT POINT, LOOK, THE REALITY IS THAT MISTAKES WERE MADE.

PLENTY OF MISTAKES WERE MADE AND PEOPLE DIED AS A RESULT OF THOSE MISTAKES.

THAT IS UNAVOIDABLE.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS FRUSTRATED ME EVEN LISTENING TO GOVERNOR CUOMO'S STATE OF THE STATE IS THAT THERE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THOSE MISTAKES OR THE FACT THAT THOSE MISTAKES DID IN FACT LEAD TO PEOPLE DYING.

SO I THINK, LOOK, THERE WERE ISSUES WITH THE FEDERAL RESPONSE.

HAVING SAID THAT, THE VACCINE IS NOW HERE.

AND I THINK WHEN I LISTEN TO PEOPLE LIKE GOVERNOR CUOMO TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE ARE GOING TO FOCUS ON MAKING SURE THAT PEOPLE DON'T CUT THE LINE, IT SEEMS DEVOID OF THE REALITY THAT THE ISSUE ISN'T THAT PEOPLE OF PRIVILEGE ARE CUTTING THE LINE.

THE ISSUE IS THE LINE IS NOT MOVING.

YOU HAVE, AGAIN, THIS WE ARE SO FAR BEHIND WHERE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AS FAR AS MAKING SURE PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO THE VACCINE, WE HAVE SO MANY JOBS AND PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN DECIMATED.

SO I THINK WE NEED TO GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD AND START TALKING ABOUT THE BEST PRACTICES.

THE GOVERNOR SPECIFICALLY SPOKE ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY THAT COVID PRESENTS.

I THINK WE NEED TO DO A LOT MORE TALKING ABOUT THE REALITY OF COVID THAT IS IN FRONT OF US RIGHT NOW.

AND WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE HAVE SO MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO DON'T HAVE AN ABILITY TO MAKE A LIVING RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF THESE LOCKDOWN POLICIES, I THINK AGAIN WE KNOW FOR A FACT THAT THERE IS HIGH RISK ACTIVITY.

BUT I THINK, AS WE SPEAK TO MORE DOCTORS, IT STARTS TO ALSO APPEAR LIKE WE ARE BECOMING THE ARCHITECTS OF SOME OF THESE SUPERSPREADER EVENTS AS PEOPLE ARE GETTING WHAT THE GOVERNOR CALLED COVID FATIGUE.

HOW ARE WE NOT MAKING SURE WE ARE FINDING WAYS TO GET MORE BACK TO THE 25% OF INDOOR DINING, WHICH WE KNOW HAS SOME OF THE LOWER RATES OF TRANSMISSION?

HOW ARE WE NOT FINDING WAYS TO SUPPORT PEOPLE WITH MORE RESOURCES IF WE ARE GOING TO MANDATE THAT THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO GO TO WORK AND MAKE A LIVING.

THAT MIDDLE CLASS, THAT WORKING CLASS HERE IN NEW YORK, THE $35 BILLION IN ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY THAT COMES OUT OF NIGHT LIFE WHICH HAD A DEMONSTRABLY LARGER IMPACT ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES, WE ARE BEING DECIMATED BY THESE THINGS AND WE HAVEN'T HAD AN HONEST CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW TO MOVE FORWARD.

BEN, I MEAN, WHAT DID AT LEAST, FROM WHAT YOU HEARD OF WHAT THE GOVERNOR HAS SAID, ONE OF THE OTHER CRITICISMS I KEEP HEARING IS THERE WEREN'T ENOUGH PEOPLE TRAINED TO BE ABLE TO EVEN GIVE THESE INOCULATIONS.

SO BASED ON WHAT YOU HEARD FROM THE OTHER TWO GENTLEMEN ON THE PANEL, HOW WOULD YOU WEIGH IN AT LEAST FROM WHAT YOU HEARD FROM THE GOVERNOR?

I THINK, FIRST, JUST TO SAY THAT, YOU KNOW, CLEARLY ALL ALONG THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN NEGLIGENT AND DEADLY ON THIS VIRUS, WHETHER IT'S CONTAINING THE VIRUS OR EVEN IN THE ROLLOUT OF THE VACCINE.

THAT'S REALLY INDISPUTABLE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FACTS.

IT'S HARD TO FIND ANYBODY WHO WOULD ARGUE OTHERWISE WITH ANY REAL SUBSTANCE.

IN NEW YORK THOUGH THERE CONTINUES TO BE FAILURES AT THE STATE AND CITY LEVEL THAT PEOPLE NEED TO RECKON WITH AS WELL.

THERE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE RESPONSIBILITY TAKEN AT THE THREE LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT BY THE CHIEF EXECUTIVES WHO COULD HAVE DONE A LOT BETTER AND STILL COULD RIGHT NOW.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN NEW YORK, I THINK, IS THAT THE GOVERNOR TRIED TO CONTINUE THIS TREND WHERE HE IS CONTROLLING EVERYTHING AND THAT BACKFIRED.

AND THAT HAS BEEN A REAL PROBLEM.

THE CONTROL WAS TOO TIGHT.

THEY TRIED TO TAKE CONTROL OF VACCINE DISTRIBUTION AWAY FROM COUNTIES THAT HAVE BEEN -- IN NEW YORK CITY THAT HAVE BEEN PREPARING FOR THIS FOR A LONG TIME AND HAVE DONE IT BEFORE.

THAT'S A PROBLEM.

YOU COULDN'T HAVE A REAL FREE FLOW WITH LIMITED DOSAGES, BUT YOU COULD HAVE HAD A LITTLE BIT LESS OF A CENTRALIZED APPROACH TO GIVING IT OUT AND WHAT GROUPS WERE ELIGIBLE, AND THAT WAS A REAL PROBLEM.

IN NEW YORK CITY, WE HAVE SEEN A REALLY BIG PROBLEM WITH THE DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION, AS USUAL, BEING SLOW TO ROLL THINGS OUT EVEN WITH LIMITED DOSES.

IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR THEM TO GET THE SITES UP.

IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR THEM TO FIND THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ELIGIBLE INITIALLY AND ALSO SET UP THE PHONE AND ONLINE SYSTEMS TO GET PEOPLE ENROLLED.

AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, BOTH THE STATE AND THE LOCALITIES SHOULD HAVE HAD VERY LONG LISTS OF PEOPLE READY TO GO IN DECEMBER WHO COULD THEN BE CALLED IN TO GET THE VACCINE AND GET THIS THING MOVING QUICKLY, AND IT'S ALMOST AS IF TO THE CONTRARY OF THE WORDS THAT WERE SPOKEN IN DECEMBER BY ELECTED LEADERS, THEY ARE ADJUSTING TO THIS ON THE FLY EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD SIGNIFICANT TIME TO PREPARE.

WELL, WE ARE COMING UP ON THE VERY END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER, BUT, BEN, I WANT TO BRING UP A VERY IMPORTANT LOCAL ISSUE.

YOU MENTIONED THE GOVERNOR'S CONTROL, THE DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION, WE KNOW THEY HAVE BEEN CONTENTIOUS.

THE DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION IS IN ITS LAST DAYS.

DO WE KNOW WHAT MIGHT BE COMING PERHAPS THIS WEEK OR SOONER IN THE MAYORAL ELECTION FOR NEW YORK CITY?

THIS IS A TOPIC FOR MANY FULL SHOWS.

I LOOK FORWARD TO THAT.

YES.

BUT THIS WEEK, THIS WEEK WE ARE EXPECTING ANDREW YANG, THE FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, TO JUMP INTO THE RACE FOR NEW YORK CITY MAYOR.

THE JUNE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY IS FAST APPROACHING.

YANG IS GOING TO CERTAINLY ENTER THE RACE WITH A BIG SPLASH.

THE QUESTION IS WHAT HAPPENS AS HE CONTINUES TO BE VETTED BY BOTH THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC.

IT WILL BE FASCINATING TO SEE HOW HE JOINS THIS VERY CROWDED ALREADY DIVERSE, INTERESTING, COMPETITIVE FIELD.

OKAY.

AND PERHAPS WILL RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOVERNOR CUOMO BE CONSIDERED THIS TIME.

LISTEN, I WANT TO THANK YOU ALL THREE OF MY GUESTS FOR JOINING ME.

BEN MAX, OF COURSE, THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF 'GOTHAM GAZETTE' AND CO-HOST OF THE MAX AND MURPHY PODCAST, JOSEPH PINION, A REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, CHAIR OF THE CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION AND HOST OF NEWSMAX'S SATURDAY AGENDA, AND PROFESSOR SALADIN AMBAR, THE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT RUTGERS UNIVERSITY AND SENIOR SCHOLAR AT EAGLETON INSTITUTE OF POLITICS.

I WISH WE HAD MORE TIME.

THESE WERE HUGE ISSUES, BUT THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019